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Do you have a kid in your house who is gearing
up to take the SATs this weekend? Pass along these tips for testing success.
The Week Before
Take a practice test. If your kid hasn’t already taken a few practice
tests, download the free
practice test available on the College Board website. Familiarity with the test raises scores,
says Colin Gruenwald, Kaplan Test Prep’s national director of SAT and ACT
programs. After the practice
test, help your kid go back and analyze what questions he missed, focusing on what still needs work.
Get a strategy in
place. The SAT penalizes one-fourth of a
point for a wrong answer, says Gruenwald. If your kid has no idea what the answer is, she should leave it blank. However, if she can eliminate even just one
of the choices (which shouldn't be too hard, according to Gruenwald), the statistics are in her favor due to the way the test grading is structured, so advise her to go ahead and guess.
Visit the testing
site. Making a trial run will ensure
your kid doesn't get lost and arrive late the
day of the test, says Kirk McLaren, president of Know Limit Learning Services. This extra level of preparation will also “decrease
anxiety,” he adds.
Get a lot of sleep. You’ve
probably heard to get a good night’s sleep before the test, but SAT expert Anthony-James Green recommends your kid goes to bed at a
reasonable hour and gets eight hours each
night the entire week leading up to it. Not
only will he enter the test well-rested, but if he's primed his body for an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. sleeping cycle, he's also more likely to wake up fresh and alert the
morning of the big day, Green says.
Check the College Board website. Look under the test day checklist to make
sure your kid is familiar with all the materials he must bring to the test, such
as proper identification, recommends Gruenwald. The site also lists acceptable calculators for use on the math portion. Double check that his calculator meets the qualifications.
The Day Before
Don’t cram. Tell your kid to quit studying, recommends Gruenwald. She has done all she can, and any more prepping
will probably just highlight areas she could use more work on, which will destroy her confidence. Instead, Gruenwald recommends doing something to keep the brain limber but not overworked,
such as piecing together a puzzle, playing a card game or reading a good book. Also, your kid can burn off some stress by “taking the dog
out for a long walk, going for a jog, anything that feels good,” he advises.
Eat well and hydrate. Leading up to the test, encourage drinking at least eight glasses of water, recommends
Green, because “brains work best when hydrated.” However, the day of the test, tell your kid to keep his water
consumption light—one glass at breakfast—so he does’t have to make a
bathroom break in the middle of the test. As for diet, the night before (and
the whole week before, if possible), serve well-balanced meals consisting of
“healthy grains; healthy fats like peanut butter, olive oil and nuts; fruits; vegetables; and proteins,” he advises. “A
lot of kids who freak out about the SAT eat chips and Mountain Dew, then
magically feel sick the day of the test, as their body is running on chemicals
and white flour.”
Get up two hours
before the test. Studies have shown
that that mental capacity peaks 90 minutes after waking up,
says Green. This two-hour window gives
the brain time to reboot.
Dress in layers. Some testing centers are warm and others are freezing. Dressing incorrectly can distract your kid from performing his best. The key to feeling the most
comfortable temperature-wise is to layer up so he can peel off or put on
articles of clothing as needed, says Gruenwald.
Eat your normal
breakfast (as long as it’s not junky). Gruenwald tells students to eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast, but
not to drastically change their breakfast routine. For example, if your kid's body is used to a bowl
of corn flakes or a bagel and a cup of orange juice, stick with it. He also advises against drinking caffeine
drinks, which can fuel pre-test jitters.
Get to the test about one-half hour or 45 minutes early. Give your kid a a torn-out section of a pre-test to bring along. As he waits, he can re-do a problem he's already solved correctly. According to Green’s
research, students do better on the SAT as they warm up. This prep work will prime
his brain and get him in the zone. And because he's going over a question
that's already mastered, his confidence will get a boost, too, he adds.
Take a deep breath
and relax. Your kid has done all he can,
and he is ready. Also, try to keep the
test in perspective: Sure, it’s
important, but it’s just one of the many factors for college admission, says
McLaren. And, with some 2,000 colleges
out there, he points out, “there will be a right fit.”